German Chocolate Cake


This classic dessert is a textural delight, pairing layers of tender chocolate cake with the sweet chew of coconut-pecan frosting.

Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
8 to 10 servings

With its layers of moist chocolate cake sandwiched between a toothsome coconut-pecan frosting, this recipe for German chocolate cake makes a memorable dessert. It uses sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks as the base of the frosting, creating a wonderfully sticky-sweet contrast to the tender chocolate cakes.

Despite its moniker, this cake is not of German origin. The dessert gets its name from the creator of the chocolate that was originally used in the cake, Samuel German, who worked for Baker’s Chocolate Company. He created a sweeter variety of dark chocolate that is marketed under the name Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate. 

A century after the creation of the chocolate, two things happened — General Mills purchased Baker’s Chocolate Company and a Texas homemaker, Ms. George Clay, had her recipe for German’s Chocolate Cake published in the Dallas Morning Star. General Mills took notice and distributed the recipe throughout the United States under the name German Chocolate Cake.



  • Cooking spray

  • 7 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) softened unsalted butter

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar

  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • 1 cup buttermilk


  • 3 1/2 cups pecan halves, divided

  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 28 ounces sweetened condensed milk (2 cans)

  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

  • 5 large egg yolks

  • 10 ounces sweetened shredded coconut (3 cups)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt


Make the cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 9-inch baking pans with nonstick cooking spray and line bottoms of pans with parchment paper.

  2. Set a heatproof bowl in a saucepan over simmering water, making sure bottom of bowl does not touch water. Add chopped chocolate and melt, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, melt chocolate in a microwave using medium power. Let cool slightly.

  3. In a medium bowl, whisk flour with cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Add eggs and egg yolk one at a time, beating between additions. Beat in vanilla. Reduce mixer to low speed; beat in buttermilk and flour mixture in three alternating batches, ending with flour mixture. Fold in melted chocolate until incorporated.

  4. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake cake until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer cake pans to a cooling rack for about 25 minutes, then remove cakes from pans, peel off parchment paper, and cool on rack until firm, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the frosting

  1. Toast pecan halves in 350°F oven until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool. Coarsely chop toasted pecans. In a large saucepan over moderately low heat, combine butter, condensed milk, and brown sugar; cook, whisking frequently, until butter has melted, sugar has dissolved, and mixture is smooth, about 3 minutes. Remove pot from heat and slowly whisk egg yolks into sugar mixture. Return pot to heat and cook over low heat, whisking constantly (switching to a heat-proof rubber spatula as needed) until it begins to bubble and thicken, about 8 minutes. Transfer frosting to a large bowl and stir in 3 cups of the pecans and the coconut, vanilla, and salt; let cool completely, 1 hour.

  2. Using a spoon or offset spatula, spread half of the frosting evenly over one cake. Top with the second cake layer and spread the remaining frosting on top. Garnish with the remaining pecans.

German Chocolate Cake
© Amy Neunsinger

Make ahead

The cake can be stored in an airtight container overnight, then refrigerated for 2 days. Serve at room temperature.

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